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How to tell the time in German (Learn German clock times)

how to learn german clock times

Apart from learning German grammar, it is very essential to review German lessons for time.

Especially, most of the conversations you’ll have with German-speaking countries is about telling the time for your appointment, meeting, or going out with someone.

German culture uses the 24-hour system or military time as used in most European countries.

Let’s learn German clock times and how to tell the time with this article.

Germans value time

Part of Germany’s culture is valuing the essence of time. That’s why you’ll see that Germans don’t want to be late for an appointment or meeting.

If you are a foreigner and want to conduct business with Germans, you must have a nice sense of being punctual.

Germany observes both the 12 hour and 24 hour time zones. The 12 hour clock is mostly employed in casual situations, in usual conversations with your friends, families, or peers.

On the other hand, the 24 hour clock is more frequently to be used in formal/official situations, such as in flight time or business appointments.

Essential words related to clock times:

Est is

It is

Uhr

hour or o’clock

vor

before

nach

after or past

viertel

quarter

halb

half

fünf

five

dreißig

thirty

Zeit

time

um

at (related to time)

gegen

round or -ish

heute

today

gestern

yesterday

morgen

tomorrow

Übermorgen

Day after tomorrow

Vorgestern

Day before yesterday

Morgen früh

tomorrow morning

Vormittag

before midday

Mittag

midday (noon)

Nachmittag

after midday

Abend

afternoon

Telling time in German

To tell the precise time, say the hour and then the minutes, but remember to include the word ‘Uhr’ this time between the hour and the minutes

2:16 Uhr: Es ist zwei Uhr sechzehn.

It is two sixteen.

You may use the 12-hour clock, just like in English.

As a result, you may use zwei Uhr (“two o’clock”) to refer to the time of day in the morning and afternoon.

If you wish to be more accurate while still using 12-hour time, keep in mind that they don’t use the word AM or PM.

You can replace nacht “at night” with morgen “in the morning”, nachmittag “after midday”, or abend “afternoon or near the evening”.

You might refer to twelve o’clock as Mittag “noon” or Mitternacht “midnight”.

To tell the time you can say it in two ways. Either you tell the hour itself by these example sentences:

Es ist zehn Uhr

It is ten o’clock

dreizehn Uhr zehn

13:10

Es ist fünfzehn Uhr

It is 15:00, or 15 o’clock

Phrases and sentences when asking and telling time

If you are in Germany for the first time and need to know the next train or bus schedule, you should be prepared to ask a few questions about the German clock times.

To help you not get stuck waiting for your next ride to come, here are some important sentences and phrases to remember asking:

Wie spät ist es?

What time is it? (Literal meaning: how late is it?)

Wie viel Uhr haben wir?

“What time is it?” or How many hours do we have?

Haben Sie die Uhrzeit?

(Do you have the time?) in formal German

Entschuldigung, wie spät ist es jetzt?

“Excuse me, what time is it?”

Other time tips:

Germans say half past the hour, not half past the hour.

It signifies that halb zehn (literal meaning: half ten) is a half hour before 10 o’clock, or 09:30.

It also implies that you must exercise caution when scheduling to meet up with your friends, otherwise you risk keeping them waiting for an hour.

As a custom value for Germans, you should arrive at least 10 to 15 minutes earlier than usual.

Telling the time in half hour

German time allows you to tell the half-hour, like you’re supposedly used to.

When it’s 27 minutes past or 27 minutes to, say half past as you would usually.

The difference is that Germans speak about the hour to come rather than the hour you’re now in.

  • Halb vier (3:30, half past three)
  • Halb acht (7:30, half past seven)
  • Halb elf (22:30, half past ten)

As you can see in the last example, the time is 22:30 or 11:30, but it is in the evening (abend) and Germans don’t use the word P.M.

If you’re using other minutes after the hour, use the German word nach (after).

Watch out! You have to mention the minutes first.

10:05 Uhr: Es ist fünf nach zehn.

It’s five past ten.

12:10 Uhr: Es ist zehn nach zwölf.

It’s ten past twelve.

4:02 Uhr: Es ist zwei nach vier.

It’s two past four.

Tell the exact time with a few German exercies

Now that you have an idea of how to tell the German time, you should practice it with a German speaker.

Improve on how to create a perfect sentence structure by knowing the right noun gender, articles, and verb conjugations. Especially, if you are using irregular verbs.

It is important to memorize and learn German numbers first before learning the German clock times.

Find an opportunity for practice with German speakers or other native speakers from German-speaking countries.

We also have some exercises for you. Tell us the answer for the following times:

  1. Können wir uns um 13:00 Uhr treffen?
  2. Es ist viertel vor neun
  3. Es ist drei Uhr fünfundzwanzig.

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